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What Exactly is a Peignoir?

What Exactly is a Peignoir?

I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "Peignoir" I instantly think of Doris Day twirling in one of her frilly two piece chiffon nightgown and robe ensembles. Let's be real, no one could rock a peignoir quite like Doris!

Doris Peignoir

But Doris was certainly not the first to make the peignoir a household name - Jean Harlow, Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr, Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Audrey Hepburn,  Elizabeth Taylor, Ginger Rogers, and other Silver Screen actresses made the peignoir synonymous with Hollywood glamour.

peignoirs movie stars


Peignoirs on screen

But what exactly is a peignoir? Well, that's a very good question and one that even various dictionaries on the web have a hard time deciding how how to answer. Here are just a few of the definitions we found in our quick search:

A Bathrobe
A Cape (long light clothing used to protect the clothes in e.g. a barber)
A woman's dressing gown
A woman's full, loose dressing gown like a negligee
A cloak or gown of terry cloth for wear after swimming or, especially in France, after the bath
A a long outer garment for women which is frequently sheer and made of chiffon or another translucent fabric
A woman's loose dressing sack
woman's loose negligee or dressing gown
A lady's loose robe
A long outer garment for women, usually sheer and made of chiffon and often sold with matching nightgown or negligee
A loose wrapper worn by women during their toilet.

But, the origin of the word Peignoir is something most everyone agrees on;

The original Middle French word, peignouoir means "garment worn over the shoulders while combing the hair." From the word peigner which means"to comb the hair." 

So in the earlier days, a peignoir was literally a comfortable, loose fitting garment a woman would put on while she combed her hair.  She would do this in the privacy of her bedroom so she would have only a nightgown or undergarments underneath. This private moment allowed women to relax from the confinement of corsets.  The earlier peignoirs were purely practical but as time went on, they became more luxurious.

1812 peignoir

1812 Peignoir (Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection)

vintage 1800s peignoir

1880 Muslin Hungarian Peignoir (Metropolitan Museum of Art)


1800s Peignoir

1874–77 French Peignoir (Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection)

1878 Peignoir

1879 Peignoir (Museum at FIT Collection)


LCMA 1910 peignoir

Peignoir by Doucet 1910 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Vera West Peignoir 1920s

1920's Vera West Silk Lace Peignoir Over Gown  (Modig Archives)

Lucien Lelong Peignoir

Lucien Lelong French Peignoir 1948 (FIT collection)

Gilbert Adrian Green Peignoir

1940's Peignoir Attributed to Gilbert Adrian (Modig Archives).

Iris Lingerie Sylvia Pedlar Peignoir set

1940's Sylvia Pedlar Iris Lingerie Blue Peignoir set with Lace Trim (Modig)

Vanity Fair Rainbow Peignoir

Vanity Fair Rainbow Chiffon Peignoir and Nightgown (Modig)

As Peignoirs became more extravagant, they became popular as part of sets that included a matching nightgown.  That's what most of us think of when we think of peignoirs. But the peignoir is just the robe, the nightgown is still called a nightgown!  During the 20th century, peignoir sets became the gold standard for sleepwear.  Lingerie manufacturers filled magazine pages with ads featuring a rainbow of flowing peignoirs paired with nightgowns and slips.

Munsingwear peignoir

Munsingwear 1920's Peignoir 

vintage-peignoir ads

vintage peignoir set ads

And if you couldn't manage to buy the dreamy sleepwear featured in those lingerie ads, you could make your own!

vintage peignoir patterns

vintage peignoir ad

1956 Peignoir with negligee pattern (Modig)

So, now you know that a peignoir is really, a robe and that peignoir sets are matching two piece robe and nightgown sets.  Whatever you choose to call them, we think they are really special and, because you can find a style from almost every decade of the 20th century, they truly never go out of style!  

Whether you prefer the Hollywood glamour of the 1930's, the tailored sophistication of the 1940's or the twirlable layers of the 1950's, we hope you will find the perfect vintage peignoir set and experience what it's like to lounge and sleep in style!  

Sweet Dreams!

Browse our vintage Intimates, Sleepwear and Loungewear collection

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